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January 16, 2009



As the events of WW II vanish down the memory hole and come to symbolize various political points of view, we get Tom Cruise playing a "good German."
David: Did you see "Other People's Lives?" What did you think of it? How polemical was it, do you think?
I can't square this film with what I read and heard about East Germany at the time it was still in existence. The idea that no one had any fun but just suffered oppression is pretty odd. I do know artists were being spied on, Krista Wolf, for instance. She was quite critical of many aspects of East German life but did not therefore think life in the west was superior.
There are too many gaps in my knowledge, I confess. I'm sure you know way more than I do. But many people mourned the loss of their socialist state and their gripe was really about being treated as a colony of the Soviet Union, and the way so many well educated and useful people defected to the West because they thought it was a better deal.
Or am I totally wrong here?



I am a huge fan of "Das Leben der anderen" and I don't think it was polemical at all. Don't forget, the film deals exclusively with the fate of artists and intellectuals, so their experience was different from the average citizen.

A writer from the fomer GDR happens to live close by to me at Bowdoin College. One night he showed me his Stasi file: it contains pages and pages of commentary and observations from people he considered his friends, even his very "best friend".

As for people having fun, I'm sure they did. Hopefully erphschwester will comment here, since she grew up in the GDR.


I see I misspelled Christa Wolf's name, and you are kind enough not to correct me.
Yes, the artists and intellectuals had a lot of privileges that others did not.


If Stauffenberg had been successful, Germany would have been nuked, too, unless it surrendered unconditionally. The conspirators wanted to save Germany's, especially its armies' dignity and honor. In order to maintain power and stability they had to bring the general staff behind them, and I think it would have all ended up in a pre-emptive pardon for all except the real high nazi ranks. Before the background of Germany's guilt this would have been completely unacceptable for the allies. Maybe the question of war had become a question of honor then in Germany's general staff, which it had not been otherwise. Maybe the war would have taken longer then, Germans saying: "Look! Our enemies don't want peace! They dismiss our most honest proposals!"


I think it's clear that the "opposition" around Gordeler, Stauffenberg, Von Treschow etc did not constitute an actual movement but rather a small-scale conspiracy.

Nonetheless the courage demonstrated by these figures cannot be written off--they did try to do something however late in the game. Valkyrie may write off the aristocratic/conservative viewpoints of the conspirators, but it also depicts honorable and courageous actions.

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